By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 96-82 in the preliminary round of the NBA's Summer League. The Connor Johnson led Summer Sixers had some good moments, some coachable moments, and some downright ugly moments.
2019 Draft Class Performance
General manager Elton Brand had to of been happy with the performances of his first draft class. Both Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok performed well on the offensive side of the floor, particularly in the first half. Thybulle, Philadelphia's first-round pick, had a team-high 15 points, hitting four of his eight attempted shots from beyond the arc. Thybulle scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, as he missed all three shots he attempted in the second half. I'd like to see Thybulle be more aggressive on the offensive end in the Sixers next two scheduled Summer League games on Monday and Wednesday.
As for Shayok, he followed up his strong performance on Friday with another solid output this afternoon. Shayok had 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field. He struggled from beyond the three-point line, shooting just 2-for-7. However, Sixers fans have to be excited about the production they've seen from the Sixers lone second-round pick.
The Other Sixers Starters
The other three Sixers starters each had an up-and-down game. Zhaire Smith led the way for the Sixers with a team high +10 plus/minus. Smith poured in 14 points, 10 in the first half, on 4-for-9 shooting. He had another electrifying dunk and played superb perimeter defense. Smith locked down the Celtics' leading scorer, Carsen Edwards, when he was matched up with him. It's encouraging to see Smith excelling on defense, as I believe that's where his biggest contribution will be with the NBA club.
Shake Milton had another interesting game to say the least. While he struggled incredibly shooting the ball, going a measly 2-for-15 from the floor, he looked natural running the offense as the team's point guard, dishing out a team high six assists. It seems as if the Sixers are using Summer League to see if Milton can handle running the offense. If Milton keeps facilitating the ball the way that he has in these first two games, there is reason to believe that he could be one of the Sixers backup point guard options. Hopefully, the more comfortable he gets with this new role, the better he will shoot.
Norvel Pelle, the Sixers' Summer League starting center, has opened some eyes through two games. Pelle has made his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor, contributing a team-high 13 rebounds to go along with a team-high three blocks. Two of his three blocks were on the same possession early in the third quarter. Pelle's contributions on the offensive end (nine points, 5-for-7 from the free-throw line) come just as a bonus when paired with his excellent defense. Don't be surprised to see Pelle on the Sixers bench this season, as he signed a two-way contract with the team this week.
The 76ers defense seemed to struggle for most of the first half. There were multiple occasions where a Sixer defender was out of position, leading to easy opportunities near the basket. The Summer Sixers also struggled to grab defensive rebounds, which again, led to many easy opportunities for the Celtics near the basket.
Another area that the young Sixers seemed to struggle in the first half was with their transition defense and turning the ball over on the offensive end. Obviously, these two components of the sport go hand-in-hand. Philadelphia had 12, yes 12, turnovers in the first half alone, which led to a multitude of easy transition baskets for Boston. They ended the game with 18 turnovers. Turning the ball over was something that the big league club also struggled with immensely this past season. However, for the Summer Sixers, turnovers and lack of defensive cohesion could have a lot to do with these group of players having never played together before.
Not a single Sixers starter had a negative plus/minus. That's the good news. The bad news: not a single member of the Sixers bench had a positive plus/minus. In fact, none of them even came close. Even the Sixers leading scorer off the bench, PJ Dozier, who had 13 points, had a downright pathetic -23 plus/minus. Not a single member of the Summer Sixers bench is expected to make the 15-man roster, and to be quite honest, it looked like it. If the Sixers were hoping for a diamond in the rough out of this bench group, they better hope that someone stands out in the next two games.
Out of the six bench players to check in for the Sixers, only one player had more than three points, the aforementioned Dozier. The thing that stood out the most, though, when the bench was on the floor was just how blatantly lost they looked on both ends of the floor. As I mentioned in the previous section, there were multiple instances where a defender was out of position, leading to either a wide open shot or an easy offensive rebound for Boston. When Shake Milton was out of the game, there wasn't one player the team could turn to in order to lead the offense. With all this being said, in the grand scheme of things, are the Summer League Sixers bench woes a big issue? Of course not, this is merely an audition for most of these players, to see if they will make the Sixers G-League affiliate in Delaware. But I'm a Philadelphia sports fan, overreacting to minor issues regarding our sports teams is just part of my DNA.